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letter, McIlvaine, Bedell, Cincinnati, church
McIlvaine, Charles Petit, "Letter to Bedell" (1862). Charles Pettit McIlvaine Letters. 342.
Cinc. Dec. 25. 1862
My dear Bishop,
Yours from Urbana came last Ev., and as I am too unwell to go to Church to-day, I will write in answer; lest tomorrow, something should present. I enclose some letters--one was opened by mistake supposing it was to me.
In regard to a meeting for the formation of a society the more I think of it, the more I am satisfied that the movement would be pre[?]cture.
In general--the whole matter has been too little matured as to what should be aimed at; and you are here too short a time to [?] ideas, with due consultation of the views of laymen, as to what should be aimed at--first, whether it should be a young men’s society, or one comprehending all--(of which my mind is not decided) secondly whether it should aim at one subject of sustaining new efforts at Churches--or a more general object. Thirdly, whether it should be a limited association composed only of a few decidedly working men of each church (if they are to be got) who should seek means from all. My mind leans to the last. Dr. Butler began a soc. in Christ Ch. (young Men). The Men excluded complained. It was composed of a very few. To it, the Churches of Atonement and Redemption were mainly due. Had Dr. Butler stayed and preserved his influence that association would have had a better history. The result was that the few members were saddled with a prodigious undivided exposure far beyond their means--and their experience will make them very careful hereafter. This leads me to remark that I do not find fault with the people of Cinc.--as to the extension of the Ch. in the city. The fact that two congregations--neither of them rich compared with many N.Y. or Phila. Churches have long supplied nearly or quite ⅔ of the [?] Receipt of the Diocese is evidence of willingness. The fault has been in the Clergy--not a man of them ever took a step beyond a collective, for the exte[nsion] of the Ch. except Dr. Butler and Mr. Gray and one of the Rectors of St. Paul many years ago. Goddard [?] every obstacle in the way. Collectives are very little without personal efforts to form and sustain and [watch] and encourage. I have preached more for the five new congregations, which since I came here have been attempted, two of which remain (not to speak of St. John’s) by many times than all the rest put together, except Mr. Gray. That however is not saying much, for I never heard of the clergy preaching there at all--except Mr. Gray and sometimes perhaps Butler. I do not include in the above [?] [?] or Clifton, which are not properly city churches.
No effort will be of any use unless the Parish Clergy take an earnest active part--and of each would do so, and all would unite and each should take with him some 5 or 10 working men, it would be the most efficient [associative].
But now as to the time. I cannot but believe that it is not now the time.
In Christ Ch. from which after all the main hep must come, we have no Rector to lead. The men who are to be relied on would think it forwardness if McCarty should move otherwise there as the g[?] of a [?] from you or me. But it is there that a Rector’s influence is most needed--because there is felt the history of previous [?] and there they will point to the Atonement and Redemption and say--we must wait till those efforts are made successful.. In Christ Ch. the past casts an evil shadow over the future. It will require something more than our recommendations to overcome it. I feel sure that an effort of a general kind before they get a Rector would not meet with efficient favor. My Rectorship there is only technical.
In St. Paul’s and St. John’s, the fact of the newness of the Rectors to their people and the City is to my mind an incomparable obstacle. What if they should recommend the object! The people would feel no weight in it, because they would know that they themselves are better acquainted with the needs of the City and of the ability of the Churches to meet it. The Rectors have as yet little else than official influence [?] true policy as to other influence is to being slowly and cautiously--feel their way--and start nothing new till they have got used to the old. For a minister as recent as Mr. H[?] to introduce this object among his people would have an unhappy [?]--except as our wish--and that is exactly what must be avoided--that is, a society must have other foundations than our wishes. It is easy now, on that basis to get a soc. organized--but to have it go on afterwards, and be ef[?] is another matter. I think you overestimate the force that can be brought out, [especially] at the best of times.
If I move H[?] or Cox--in those circumstances and my Bp. should urge this object, I should probably say what I think they would say. ‘If you think it should be attempted now, we will do our best’ --while I should [?]ardly feel as I think they will, that it is unseasonably urged. Six months hence, if they do well, will be in much better time--and if they do not well for sixth months, better not being now. Failures in such things are the [?]. Are you fooled as to the results of such societies elsewhere--Has any general society of the kind succeeded? Are new churches in Phila., N. Y., or Boston begun by such? The work in Phila. has been selective and elsewhere it has been p[?].
But I need knowledge on that head. As to my own participation, I do not think it would be well for such a movement to originate in a call by the Bp. My observation leads me to place very little [?] on official influence (Episcopal) to such ends--and as to personal I have little belief on it--so far as I am concerned. I have tried it here when I wanted money for the college and been so mortified in the failure that I am not disposed to risk it again. But independently of that, it is much better that the congregation should realize that it is the work of their Rector mainly and [?]. Then as to the [?] of the soc. I should decidedly and forcibly object to the Bp. being Pres. because as his residence here is only [?] to it, there is no official reason why he should be Pres. of such a soc. in Cinc--than in Cleveland. It should be a lay society and the laity should feel that it is such to such extent as that all the responsibility is on them. As soon as you have a Bp. at its heed--all hard [tugs] and crises will be placed on him--and all failures will implicate his usefulness and influence. He can serve it better
I have thus very hastily endeavored to express my views. According to present symptoms, I shall be confined to the house some days. The local [?] by which I supposed in the summer and from which I have been entirely relieved since then, only about two weeks (while in N.Y.) has returned in great force.
Of course we must see you here. Happy Christmas to you and Mr. Bedell. I sent you yesterday at Gambier, forgetting all about your coming to Cinc.--a letter from Mr. [?]--rather encouraging.